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Noun Cases and Declensions

  • 2112

Can someone help those of us who are complete beginners with some basic systematic instructions or tables as regards the various Latin noun cases and declensions, seeing as how lacking such an aid we are ( or at least I am ) reduced, more often than not, to wild guesses.

September 28, 2019



There are six cases of Latin nouns that are commonly used. Another two—locative and instrumental—are vestigial and are not often used. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and participles are declined in two numbers (singular and plural) and in six principal cases. Nominative (nominativus): Subject of the sentence. Genitive (genitivus): Generally translated by the English possessive, or by the objective with the preposition of. Dative (dativus): Indirect object. Usually translated by the objective with the preposition to or for. Accusative (accusativus): Direct object of the verb and object with many prepositions. Ablative (ablativus): Used to show means, manner, place, and other circumstances. Usually translated by the objective with the prepositions "from, by, with, in, at." Vocative (vocativus): Used for direct address.


Nouns are declined according to gender, number, and case (a declension is essentially a fixed pattern of endings). There are only five regular declensions of nouns in Latin; there is a sixth for some pronouns and adjectives that end in -ius in the genitive case form. Each noun is declined according to number, gender, and case. This means that there are six sets of case endings for five declensions of nouns—one set for each declension.1. First declension nouns: End in -a in the nominative singular and are feminine.

  1. Second declension nouns:

Most are masculine and end in -us, -er or -ir. Some are neuter and end in -um. Esse: The all-important irregular verb esse ("to be") belongs to this group. Words associated with it are in the nominative case. It does not take an object and should never be in the accusative case.

The following is a sample paradigm* of the second declension masculine noun somnus, -i ("to sleep"). The case name is followed by the singular, then the plural.

*Note that the term "paradigm" is frequently used in discussions of Latin grammar; a "paradigm" is an example of a conjugation or declension showing a word in all its inflectional forms.Nominative somnus somni Genitive somni somnorum Dative somno somnis Accusative somnum somnos Ablative somno somnis Locative somni somnis Vocative somne somni 3. Third declension nouns: End in -is in the genitive singular. That's how you identify them.

4.​ Fourth declension nouns: Ending in -us are masculine, apart from manus and domus, which are feminine. Fourth declension nouns ending in -u are neuter.

  1. Fifth declension nouns: End in -es and are feminine. The exception is dies, which is usually masculine when singular and always masculine when plural.


Some first declension nouns are masculine. For exemple, poeta, agricola, nauta among others.

  • 2112

Many Many Thanks. Much appreciated. Now all I have left to do is try and work out when to use which declension.


Wiktionary is a good source for declension, etymology and (occasionally) usage tips.



I'm a complete beginner as well. By using information in bulbs, I've been able to justify almost all forms used so far (up to skill 9).

  • 2112

True. I, on the mistaken assumption that the bulbs were - as so often in other languages - rather perfunctory, have after looking at the first one more or less ignored them. I couldn't have been more wrong. I have now been copying and pasting them in a slightly more organized manner in word files of my own.

So thanks for drawing my attention to them.

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